Friday, May 17, 2013
It Isn't Like Herding Cats
There are two components to the project - one outdoor and one in the basement - that requires some fairly delicate fine-tuning and cooperation between the two sets of laborers. Here are a few things I've learned in the last four weeks:
1. Each separate entity has their own set of quirks around how they like to work, when they like to work, and what their particular set of responsibilities entails.
2. It is my job to facilitate constructive collaboration between these two entities.
3. This is not like herding cats.
Herding cats is a phrase I generally like and have used often, but it conjures up discrete individuals with their own ideas and agendas who simply don't care about anyone else's silly little life. Unless it affects when they eat. That is important to cats. This task is much more like herding labrador retrievers. The head of each crew is answering to me, loyal to me (the check-writer), and concerned with my needs, like a sweet puppy dog who needs my approval. That part is great. However, they circle around each other, wary and sniffing and a little territorial and it is my job to keep the tails wagging and not get peed on. That is more difficult.
Both jobs are big and will take months to complete. Both are fairly intrusive to my life (ahh, the perks of working from home?), and the two jobs dovetail in multiple areas which means that if one crew takes a little longer to accomplish something (or their subcontractor simply doesn't show up for work one day without notice), it affects everyone else. The tension that ensues is no big deal unless I don't nip it in the bud. There has been some almost-middle-school drama wherein a seemingly casual conversation quickly turns into a not-very-thinly-veiled accusation against the other crew for "passing the buck" or "screwing up" and it is all I can do not to crack up. Thus far, I have been able to deal with these jabs the same way I do with Eve and Lola, by giving more details and explaining how such a thing might have come to pass. That said, I'm fairly certain that I have the power to tip the scales simply by appearing to side with one or the other and starting a full-scale war for my admiration.
At one point, I was describing such a scene to Bubba and he remarked that, while I'm learning a lot about how boilers work and gas lines are installed, perhaps my biggest lessons in all of this will be the ones about managing people and personalities. I agreed, but didn't have the heart to tell him that running this household with him and two children had already given me an education in that subject.